FPC Fires First in Two Ninth Circuit Appeals Challenging Gun Store, Shooting Range COVID-19 Closures in Los Angeles and Ventura Counties

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SACRAMENTO, CA (March 5, 2021) — Today, Firearms Policy Coalition (FPC) announced that opening briefs were filed before the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in cases challenging COVID-19 closures of all gun stores and shooting ranges by officials in the counties of Ventura and Los Angeles, respectively. The briefs, authored by attorneys Raymond M. DiGiuseppe and FPC’s Director of Constitutional Studies, Joseph Greenlee, can be viewed at FPCLegal.org.

In McDougall v. County of Ventura, FPC, Second Amendment Foundation (SAF), and California Gun Rights Foundation (CGF) joined two individuals in a lawsuit challenging the county’s wide-ranging ban on firearm and ammunition purchases, including the forced closure of retailers and bans on travel to stores in other counties. The district court dismissed the case, finding that the stay-at-home orders did not violate the Second Amendment under the standard set forth in Jacobson v. Commonwealth of Massachusetts and even if tiered-scrutiny were appropriate, the orders did not violate the Second Amendment under intermediate scrutiny. 

FPC’s opening brief argues, much like Supreme Court Justice Gorsuch recently held, that the Jacobson framework has no superseding application where fundamental rights are at stake, the stay-at home orders destroyed the “core” Second Amendment right by denying acquisition of firearms and ammunition, that the orders were categorically unconstitutional, and that, in the alternative, the prohibition fails any level of heightened scrutiny.

In Martinez v. Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva (formerly Brandy v. Villanueva), FPC, along with individuals, firearm and ammunition retailers, SAF, CGF, and National Rifle Association of America (NRA), sued Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva, California Governor Gavin Newsom, and others over the forced closure of gun dealers and shooting ranges. The district court dismissed the case, erroneously finding that the defendants’ actions survived intermediate scrutiny.

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FPC’s appeal brief argues that a live controversy involving actionable injury remains, rendering the case not moot, that the orders destroyed the “core” Second Amendment right by denying acquisition of firearms and ammunition, that the orders were categorically unconstitutional under the Second Amendment and the Court’s Heller decision, and that, in the alternative, as in the McDougall brief, the prohibition fails any level of heightened scrutiny.

“The right to keep and bear arms is a natural right. The government does not grant the right, nor may the government take it away when it finds it convenient to do so.” said FPC’s Joseph Greenlee. “Our country has endured a great variety of emergencies, from pandemics to natural disasters to wars and financial depressions—and COVID-19 will not be the last. To allow our inherent rights to be violated except during times of peace and prosperity is to treat them as mere privileges.”

“Through these appeals, FPC continues to fight for the recognition and respect of the Second Amendment rights unlawfully denied through public health orders that have shut down the firearm industry as “non-essential” during the pandemic and barred countless law-abiding citizens from accessing the firearms retailers and ranges essential to the exercise of their fundamental constitutional rights to keep and bear arms,” said Raymond DiGuiseppe. “The COVID-19 pandemic is indeed tragic, but the Constitution may not be abandoned or ignored in times of public crisis. Instead, upholding constitutionally guaranteed civil rights is of utmost importance during these tumultuous times, and particularly the right of law-abiding citizens to lawfully protect and defend themselves, their families, and their property with bearable arms against the dangers of the social unrest and economic strife pervading communities and neighborhoods across the country.” 

Firearms Policy Coalition and its FPC Law team are the nation’s next-generation advocates for the right to keep and bear arms and adjacent issues, having recently filed many major federal Second Amendment lawsuits, including challenges to the State of Maryland’s ban on “assault weapons” (Bianchi v. Frosh), the State of Pennsylvania’s and Allegheny County’s carry restrictions (Cowey v. Mullen), Philadelphia’s Gun Permit Unit policies and practices (Fetsurka v. Outlaw), Pennsylvania’s ban on carry by adults under 21 years of age (Lara v. Evanchick), California’s Handgun Ban and “Roster” laws (Renna v. Becerra), Maryland’s carry ban (Call v. Jones), New Jersey’s carry ban (Bennett v. Davis), New York City’s carry ban (Greco v. New York City), the federal ban on the sale of handguns and handgun ammunition by federal firearm licensees (FFLs) to adults under 21 years of age (Reese v. BATFE), and others, with many more cases being prepared today. To follow these and other legal cases FPC is actively working on, visit the Legal Action section of FPC’s website or follow FPC on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, YouTube.

Firearms Policy Coalition (firearmspolicy.org) is a 501(c)4 nonprofit organization. FPC’s mission is to protect and defend constitutional rights—especially the right to keep and bear arms—advance individual liberty, and restore freedom through litigation and legal action, legislative and regulatory action, education, outreach, grassroots activism, other programs. FPC Law is the nation’s largest public interest legal team focused on Second Amendment and adjacent fundamental rights including freedom of speech and due process, conducting litigation, research, scholarly publications, and amicus briefing, among other efforts.

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